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It is strange that fraud and slander are discussed together in the book for elders, “Shepherd The Flock Of God” because the two concepts are unrelated. The reason for this is that the GB has decided that the words “speak to the congregation” in Matthew 18:17 means that the offenses implied are disfellowshipping offenses. Using Sherlockian type reasoning, the current understanding of this Scripture is merely a deduction, based on an amalgam of assumptions and speculative premises, that has resulted in the most outrageous example of doctrinal guesswork on the part of the GB to date! And despite the dubious nature of this argument, on top of the fact that the Scriptural account does not even mention these two offenses, the Shepherd book boldly declares “fraud and slander” to be disfellowshipping offenses as if these two words were lifted directly from the pages of the Bible itself.

The reasoning is as follows: Because the offenses that are implied in Matthew 18:15-17 can be forgiven by one person, they cannot refer to those disfellowshipping offenses that must be considered by a judicial committee. The only two disfellowshipping offenses that can be forgiven by one person is fraud and slander, according to the GB.  However, no scriptural analysis is presented to back up that assertion, and this is because no such scriptural support exists. In fact, the whole convoluted line of reasoning in connection with Matthew 18:15-17 is erroneous.

Fraud is defined as the use of deception, trickery, and perversion of truth in order to get something that is valuable from another person. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the verb ‘āshaq is translated as “defraud,” and its meaning may be “misusing one’s strength, power, or authority over others.” Jesus quotes from Leviticus 19:13 where ‘āshaq is used, and Mark translated the Hebrew verb with apostereō. This shows that the Greek verb apostereō has the same meaning as the Hebrew verb ‘āshaq. The Greek verb apostereō also has the meanings “deprive,” “defraud,” and “despoil.”

The Greek noun dolos has the meaning “fraud” or “deceit.” But neither this noun nor the verb apostereō occurs in contexts where disfellowshipping is discussed. This underlines the fact that “fraud” as a disfellowshipping offense was made up and introduced by the Governing Body without any basis in the Christian Greek Scriptures.

The book “Shepherd The Flock Of God” chapter 12, point 24, says regarding fraud and slander:

Fraud, Slander: (Lev. 19:16; Matt. 18:15-17: w97 3/ 15 pp. 17-22: it-1 pp. 870. 989-991; od pp. 136-138 pars. 13-20: lvs p. 163) Fraud is defined as the intentional use of deception, trickery, or perversion of truth for the purpose of inducing another to part with some valuable thing belonging to him or to give up a legal right. Slander is defined as a false report meant to do harm to the good name and reputation of another. Such talk is generally malicious. Slander is not identical to negative gossip. Negative gossip may be true; slander is always false. Negative gossip requires counsel but not judicial action. (w89 10/15 p. 10; it-1 p. 990 par. 2) The congregation would not consider forming a judicial committee unless the offended Christian had taken steps one and two of Mathew 18:15, 16 and had initiated step three as described in Matthey 18.17.—lvs pp.253-254.


The concepts “fraud” and “slander” are not related in any way. So it is strange that the two are grouped together as one point. The reason for this odd coupling is the Governing Body’s interpretation of the words of Jesus in Matthew 18 15-17 NWT13 as we read in the book Organized to Do Jehovah’s Will (2005) pages 145, 146, says:


13 Willingness to overlook offenses and to forgive does not mean that we are unconcerned about wrongdoing or that we approve of it. Not all wrongs can be charged to inherited imperfection; nor is it proper to overlook wrongs that go beyond minor offenses. (Lev. 19:17; Ps. 141:5) The Law covenant recognized that some sins are more serious than others, and the same is true in the Christian arrangement.​—1 John 5:16, 17.

14 Jesus outlined a specific procedure for solving serious problems that may arise between fellow Christians. Note the steps that he set out: “If your brother commits a sin, [1] go and reveal his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, [2] take along with you one or two more, so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he does not listen to them, [3] speak to the congregation. If he does not listen even to the congregation, let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector.”​—Matt. 18:15-17.

15 In view of the illustration that Jesus subsequently gave, recorded at Matthew 18:23-35, it appears that one of the sins considered at Matthew 18:15-17 involves financial or property matters, such as failing to repay a loan or committing fraud. Or the offense might be slander, which seriously affects someone’s reputation.

16 If you have evidence that someone in the congregation has committed such a sin against you, do not be hasty to turn to the elders, asking them to intervene on your behalf. As Jesus counseled, speak first with the one against whom you have the complaint. Try to resolve the matter between just the two of you without involving anyone else. Keep in mind that Jesus did not say ‘go only once and reveal his fault.’ Therefore, if the person did not admit the wrong and ask forgiveness, it may be good to consider approaching him again later. If the matter can be resolved in this way, the one who sinned will certainly appreciate that you have not told others about his sin or marred his good reputation in the congregation. You will have “gained your brother.”

17 If the one who committed the offense accepts responsibility, seeks forgiveness, and takes steps to right the wrong, there is no need to carry the matter further. Although the sin was serious, an offense of this kind can be settled between the individuals involved.

18 If you are not able to gain your brother by revealing his fault “between you and him alone,” then you may do as Jesus said, “take along with you one or two more,” and speak with your brother again. Those whom you take with you should also have the objective of gaining your brother. Preferably, they would be witnesses of the alleged wrongdoing, but if there are no eyewitnesses, you may choose to ask one or two more to be witnesses to the discussion. They may have experience in the matter at issue and may be able to establish whether what occurred was truly a wrong. Elders chosen to act as witnesses do not represent the congregation, since the body of elders has not specifically assigned them to do so.

19 If the matter has not been resolved after repeated efforts​—you spoke with him alone and you went to him with one or two others—​and you feel that you cannot let it pass, then you should report the matter to the overseers of the congregation. Remember that their goal is to maintain the peace and cleanness of the congregation. Having approached the elders, you will want to leave the matter in their hands and trust in Jehovah. Never should you allow the conduct of someone else to stumble you or to rob you of your joy in Jehovah’s service.​—Ps. 119:165.

20 The shepherds of the flock will investigate the matter. If it becomes evident that the person has indeed committed a serious sin against you and is unrepentant and unwilling to make reasonable and appropriate amends, it may be necessary for a committee of overseers to expel the wrongdoer from the congregation. Thus they protect the flock and safeguard the cleanness of the congregation.​—Matt. 18:17.

There are three serious problems with expelling a Witness because of “fraud,” 1) The account in Matthew 18 does not specifically say that “fraud” was one of the offenses; the GB only surmised that it “might be fraud” 2) Even if “fraud” had been implied, no passage in the Christian Greek Scriptures says that fraud is a disfellowshipping offense, and 3) There is nothing in the context showing that the sins alluded to in Matthew 18:15-17 refer to disfellowshipping offenses.[1]

[1]. My article “A man of the nations, a tax collector” in the category “Shunning not based on the Bible” has a detailed analysis of Matthew 18:15-17 showing that the interpretation of the GB is wrong.


Fraud is a kind of dishonesty, and I will point out the difference between fraud and stealing, according to The Watchtower, public edition, No. 1, 2016, page 5:


WHAT IS IT? Inducing someone to part with money or property on false pretenses.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS: “You must not defraud a hired worker who is in need and poor.” (Deuteronomy 24:14, 15) “The one who defrauds the lowly one insults his Maker, but whoever shows compassion to the poor glorifies Him.”​—Proverbs 14:31.


WHAT IS IT? Taking property from a person without permission.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS: “Let the one who steals steal no more; rather, let him do hard work, doing good work with his hands, so that he may have something to share with someone in need.” (Ephesians 4:28) “Do not be misled. . . . Thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners will not inherit God’s Kingdom.”​—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.

The lexicon Insight on the Scriptures I, page 870, describes “fraud” in the following way:

The intentional use of deception, trickery, or perversion of truth for the purpose of inducing another to part with some valuable thing belonging to him or to give up a legal right. The Hebrew term rendered “defraud” (ʽa·shaqʹ; Le 6:2) has the basic sense of misusing one’s strength, power, or authority over others. It is thus also rendered ‘oppress.’ (Ec 4:1; Isa 52:4) The Greek verb a·po·ste·reʹo means “deprive; defraud; despoil.” (1Co 7:5; Mr 10:19; 1Ti 6:5) The Greek noun doʹlos (“fraud”; Ac 13:10) is also rendered “deceit.”​—Mr 7:22.

Fraud, as dealt with in the Bible, is generally associated with business relationships. Dishonest business dealings are forbidden by God’s law. The Israelites were to deal honestly with one another. The hired laborer was specifically protected by the Law. (Le 19:13; De 24:14; compare Jas 5:4.) Jesus Christ included the injunction against fraud among the “commandments” of God. (Mr 10:19) Under the Law covenant, if a man defrauded his associate and later repented and brought the matter to light, confessing it, he was required to restore the full amount plus one fifth of it to the person injured, as well as to offer a guilt offering to Jehovah.​—Le 6:1-7.

False forms of religion likewise are considered fraudulent in the Scriptures. Paul’s sharp denunciation of Elymas the sorcerer resulted in Elymas’ being struck with blindness because of the fraud and villainy he had practiced by “distorting the right ways of Jehovah.” (Ac 13:8-11) Paul also corrected Christians in Corinth who were taking one another to court, stating that they were wronging and defrauding their brothers by this action of going to court before unrighteous men and not before the holy ones in the congregation. They should rather suffer being defrauded than to take such matters before men of the world.​—1Co 6:1-8.

The Bible frequently warns against fraud and fraudulent practices and denounces them, also pointing out that God will judge defrauders and will deliver his people from such ones.​—Ps 62:10; 72:4; 103:6; Pr 14:31; 22:16;28:16; Mic 2:1, 2; Mal 3:5.

The difference between stealing and fraud can be expressed in the following way: Stealing means to take secretly and without permission the valuables or property of another person, while fraud is the use of deception, trickery, or perversion of truth in order to obtain or secure the valuables or property of another person.


Stealing means to take someone’s valuables or property without their permission, while fraud means to obtain someone’s valuables or property by the use of deception, trickery or the perversion of truth. Fraud is always stealing but stealing is not always fraud.

Fraud in the Hebrew Scriptures

Insight refers to Leviticus 6:2 and its use of the word ‘ashaq. NWT13 renders the text in the following way:

“If someone sins and behaves unfaithfully toward Jehovah by deceiving his neighbor in connection with something entrusted to him, or something deposited with him, or he robs (gāzēl) or defrauds (‘āshaq) his neighbor.

The Concise Hebrew-Aramaic Dictionary by Koehlenberger and Mounce gives the following meaning of ‘āshaq:

To oppress, mistreat; to defraud, extort.

And the article in Insight says that ‘āshaq can be translated as oppress, and it correctly defines the word in the following way:

The Hebrew term rendered “defraud” (ʽa·shaqʹ; Le 6:2) has the basic sense of misusing one’s strength, power, or authority over others.

The Septuagint translates ‘āshaq with adikeō, and Louw and Nida give the following meaning of adikeō:

To hurt or to harm, with the implication of doing something which is wrong and undeserved… to mistreat by acting unjustly toward someone.

Fraud in the Christian Greek Scriptures

The verb adikeō that the Septuagint uses for ‘āshaq (“defraud”) occurs 24 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. But it does not have the meaning “defraud.” This verb is used with the meaning given by Louw and Nida — to mistreat someone to their hurt or harm.

Insight refers to the verb apostereō with the meanings “deprive; defraud; despoil.” This verb occurs in the Christian Greek Scriptures in the following six verses (NWT13):

Mark 10:19

19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud (apostereō),  honor your father and your mother.’”

1 Corinthians 6:7, 8

 Really, it is already a defeat for you when you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather let yourselves be wronged? Why do you not rather let yourselves be defrauded (apostereō)?  Instead, you wrong and defraud (apostereō), and your brothers at that!

1 Corinthians 7:5

5 Do not deprive (apostereō) each other except by mutual consent for an appointed time, so that you may devote time to prayer and may come together again, in order that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-control.

1 Timothy 6:5

 constant disputes about minor matters by men who are corrupted in mind and deprived (apostereō) of the truth, thinking that godly devotion is a means of gain.

James 5:4

4 Look! The wages you have withheld (apostereō) from the workers who harvested your fields keep crying out, and the cries for help of the reapers have reached the ears of Jehovah of armies. 

The six passages quoted above show that apostereō may have different senses. And it is not easy to determine the particular nuances intended in each passage. However, Mark 10:19 is interesting because Jesus spoke Hebrew and he quoted from the law of Moses. According to Mark 10:19, a young man asked Jesus what he should do to gain everlasting life. Jesus referred to the ten commandments, and because the young man evidently was rich, Jesus also referred to Leviticus 19:13 (NWT13):

13 You must not defraud (‘āshaq) your fellow man, and you must not rob. You should not withhold the wages of a hired worker all night until morning.

The definition of ‘āshaq in Insight, as I have already mentioned, is “misusing one’s strength, power, or authority over others.” This verse shows that this definition is correct — a person who is the superior should not withhold the wages from a hired worker. Because Mark, under inspiration, translates the Hebrew verb ‘āshaq with apostereō in this passage, we know that the Greek word apostereō can also have the same meaning of the Hebrew verb ‘āshaq “misusing one’s strength, power, or authority over others.” And because of the quotation of Jesus, this must be the meaning of apostereō in Mark 10:19. The verb apostereō can also have the other sides of meaning “deprive, defraud, and despoil,” as seen in the other four passages.

Insight also refers to the Greek noun dolos. According to Louw and Nida, the meaning of dolos is:

to deceive by using trickery and falsehood.

The noun occurs 11 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and table 1.1 shows how NWT13 translates the word dolos.

Table 1.1 The renderings of dolos in NWT13

Matthew 26:4 cunning
Mark 7:22 deceit
Mark 14:1 cunning
John 1:47 deceit
Acts 13:10 fraud
Rom 1:29 deceit
2 Corinthians 12.16 trickery
1 Thessalonians 2:3 deceit
1 Peter 2:1 deceit
1 Peter 2:22 deception
1 Peter 3.10 deception

The NWT13 uses five different renderings for the Greek noun dolos, but this is based on conjecture because the different nuances in each case are not easy to detect.

When we look at the contexts of the 11 verses with dolos in table 1:1 and the six verses with apostereō at the beginning of this section, we see that none of these Greek words occur in a context where disfellowshipping is discussed. And this underlines the fact that “fraud” as a disfellowshipping offense, like its fraternal-twin word “slander,” in the Shepherd book, is made up and invented by the Governing Body without any basis in the Bible.


The noun “fraud” means to use deception, trickery, and the perversion of truth in order to obtain the valuables or property of another person. This is a crime that Christians should never engage in, but nowhere is fraud mentioned in the context of disfellowshipping in the Christian Greek Scriptures.

We have seen that the Greek verb apostereō and the substantive dolos can include the sides of meaning “defraud” and “fraud” respectively. But these words do not occur in any contexts where disfellowshipping is discussed. This underlines the fact that “fraud” as a disfellowshipping offense is made up and invented by the GB without any basis in the Bible.

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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